'Pro' Common Core 'Experts' Too Unqualified to See How 'Standards Have Been Flawed from the Start'

Sandra Stotsky
By Sandra Stotsky | September 11, 2014 | 5:12 PM EDT

How did we get to the point that a forum on an issue (or even a debate) means that most of the speakers are unqualified to speak about it?  Two examples just came my way this week, which suggests that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and funded friends are working overtime and need a vacation to deepen their conceptual understanding of the kind of people who can contribute to a forum on Common Core’s mathematics standards.

Tuesday night, September 9, featured a Thomas B. Fordham Institute webcast titled “Embrace the Common Core” as if it were a rattlesnake in a classroom closet needing a friendlier reception than it had at first received.  The two speakers advertised as “pro” (Mike Petrilli at Fordham and Carmel Martin at the Center for American Progress—a lawyer by training) don’t know how to read a set of high school standards in mathematics or English. So, they clearly couldn’t answer the ungrammatical question that apparently someone was to answer: “American students are graduating [from] high school without the necessary skills for college and the workforce, but has the federal government saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start?”

On the other side of the debate (supposedly), Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute also can’t read a set of high school mathematics or English standards.  Hess has a Ph.D. in government and once taught social studies in the schools, so anything he might have said for or against Common Core doesn’t reflect expertise in either English or mathematics. He is also not known for being against Common Core. Rather, he is widely perceived as being for it, once his utterances have been deciphered by the Oracle at Delphi. The other “con” speaker, a New York State high school principal, Carol Burris, was the only credible panelist because she has to listen to what her high school English and mathematics teachers tell her—and clearly has.

The other example is a forum being sponsored by Wyoming Public Media and Wyoming Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The producers of this event (to take place on Wednesday, September 10, 2014), for airing on later dates, also need to vacation with other Gates-funded friends and deepen their conceptual understanding of who needs to contribute to a forum on a particular topic.  One producer has written to a protesting parent: “When looking for panelists, I certainly reached out to opponents as well as proponents, with little concern for their opinion of Common Core, but only for their knowledge of it.… My intention is simply to educate people, help them understand what standards really are, sort out some of the misconceptions and concerns--without throwing the political football around. …I'd prefer to ensure people have a baseline understanding of what Common Core actually is before expecting them to line up for or against it.  He concluded his response by indicating that: “there are really more than two sides to this issue.”

So, did Wyoming Public Media and Wyoming PBS arrange for any panelists who can address Common Core’s missing high school mathematics standards from a higher education faculty perspective?  So far as we know, not one of its panelists can tell us why students, who go only as far as a weak Algebra II course, which is as far as Common Core’s mathematics sequence takes them, are not ready to begin a four-year college major in science, engineering, mathematics, or economics, and yet this producer wants to give his audience a “baseline understanding of what Common Core actually is.”

Only the Cheshire Cat can make words mean whatever it wants them to mean.  Even the Fordham Institute and the Wyoming Public Media and Wyoming PBS can’t make Common Core’s mathematics standards mean “rigorous” when the mathematician who wrote them, Jason Zimba, said they represented “minimal college readiness” and couldn’t prepare our students for a STEM career or a selective college? Don’t Fordham and PBS know any scientists, engineers, or mathematicians to invite to a forum?